Established in 1922, the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme, or FIDH) is a union of 141 human rights organizations in nearly 100 countries; it coordinates and supports its members’ activities, and provides them with a voice at the international level. FIDH asserts that its mandate is “to contribute to the respect of all the rights defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and to “[obtain] effective improvements in the protection of victims, the prevention of Human Rights violations and the sanction of their perpetrators.”
FIDH identifies 4 Statutory Priorities that guide its activities:
Protecting Human Rights, Assisting Victims: Activities in this category include judicial enquiry, trial observation, research, advocacy, and litigation. FIDH reports that from 2001 to 2003, it carried out 111 fact-finding and observation missions, published 201 reports covering more than 80 countries, and initiated some 1,300 specific interventions on cases or situations.
Mobilizing the Community of States: FIDH guides and supports its member organizations and other local partners in their dealings with inter-governmental organizations. From 2001 to 2003, FIDH filed and supported more than 500 cases before international governmental bodies, “with actions ranging from written appeals to the UN Commission on Human Rights, to monitoring global conferences.”
Supporting Local NGOs’ Capacity for Action: “FIDH organizes legal cooperation programs jointly with its member leagues and local partners … to strengthen … the capacity for action of Human Rights defenders and the credibility of their organizations, through training and dialogue with authorities. From 2001 to 2003, judicial cooperation action programs were pursued in 30 African, 16 Latin American, and 12 countries from the North Africa/Middle Eastern region.”
Raising Awareness: FIDH publicizes its research findings and eyewitness accounts of Human Rights abuses via press releases, press conferences, open letters to Heads of States, mission reports, urgent appeals, petitions, publicity, and regular website updates; during 2004, Internet traffic to its website (www.fidh.org) amounted to approximately 1 million pages visited.
FIDH also enumerates 5 Thematic Priorities:
Protecting Human Rights Defenders and the Implementation of the 1998 UN Declaration: In 2004, FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture jointly addressed 1,154 cases in more than 90 countries, with the collaboration of approximately 200 Human Rights organizations.
Defending Women’s Rights: FIDH “fights against the secondary status treatment of women in nearly all societies and the flagrant persistence of gender-based discrimination,” via its Action Group for Women’s Rights, which is headed by the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner and FIDH League President, Shirin Ebadi.”
Justice for Victims Fighting Impunity: In this area, FIDH, which made a significant contribution to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, “gives daily support to victims by accompanying them throughout the entire course of their legal proceedings.”
Promoting Respect of Human Rights in the Fight Against Terrorism: “Since 2002, FIDH initiated or supported key proceedings before domestic courts … in cases concerning arbitrary measures and practices in the fight against terrorism.” According to FIDH, “Terrorism can only be effectively combated by and through the respect of Human Rights.”
Advocating Economic Globalization Respectful of Human Rights: “FIDH actively seeks to ensure the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights, the responsibility of economic actors, the primacy of Human Rights over trade law, and the participation of civil societies in globalization organizations.”
Professing nonpartisanship, FIDH claims that it is “linked to no party, no religion, and is independent vis-a-vis all governments.” It does, however, accuse the United States of having fostered, by means of its military response to the attacks of 9/11, a worldwide atmosphere of disregard for human rights: “Fanatical ideologists, proselytes, and murderers have found an echo in the action of the leading world power, which is responding to the deep wound of its people with a brutal and arbitrary expansionistic nationalism. Good and Evil, as well as the illegal use of force, deception and opportunism are just so many ‘concepts’ and methods on which American policy is now based. The American base in Guantanamo, the Abu [Ghraib] prison, and the American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq are symbols of its perversion: now, the ends justify the means, contracted international obligations are neglected to the benefit of security imperatives.”
FIDH also follows a strong pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel political agenda, as evidenced by the fact that its member organizations include Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. On May 27, 2003, FIDH and five other prominent NGOs issued a joint press release entitled “International Rights Groups Decry Increased Harassment of Monitors,” which accused the Israeli government of intimidating, harassing, and even killing foreign national humanitarian workers in the Gaza Strip. Taking umbrage at the fact that such workers must sign a waiver form when they enter Gaza, FIDH made no mention of the fact that this policy was necessitated by the fact that many self-identified “humanitarians” (such as the late Rachel Corrie) are in fact political activists intent on aggressively interfering with the anti-terrorism activities of the Israeli Defense Force. Nor did the FIDH press release note the recent spate of incidents where individuals purportedly engaged in humanitarian enterprises were in fact terrorists. One such case took place in April 2003, when two suicide bombers posing as human rights workers traveled to Gaza on British passports. To provide cover, they met with members of the Palestinian-run International Solidarity Movement. One of them later blew himself up — killing three civilians and injuring 50 more — in a midnight attack in a popular Tel Aviv jazz bar.
FIDH has received funding from the Ford Foundation.